John Cooney and Jordi Murphy both returned from provincial duty to score tries in Lansdowne’s bonus point success at home to Dolphin on Saturday afternoon.
This was an important Ulster Bank League win for Lansdowne who lost their last Division 1A game to Young Munster and were beaten by St. Mary’s in the Leinster Senior League Cup decider.
They were bonus point winners on Dolphin’s most recent visit to the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch, but the Cork outfit got off to a decent start this time around.
Young winger Rory Scannell broke through for the opening try following a clever move from a second minute lineout, with Barry Keeshan adding the extras.
Lansdowne, who had Connacht's Kyle Tonetti playing at outside centre, regrouped quickly and enjoyed the better of possession before Mark Roche, another promising back on show, slipped in for an unconverted try off scrum ball.
Experienced out-half Keeshan put in some crucial clearances as Dolphin came under further pressure, yet they yielded when Leinster scrum half John Cooney got over in the corner from another close range scrum.
Keeshan pulled a penalty attempt wide into the wind, and the hosts cranked up the pressure approaching half-time.
They wheeled the Dolphin scrum and forced a penalty off a second set piece. Having kicked to touch, Lansdowne pressed closer in and Dolphin scrum half Brian Slater saw yellow for infringing.
In the next phase, Lansdowne worked a five-metre lineout and lock Willie Earle managed to dot down by the posts for Craig Ronaldson to convert.
The pace of the game slackened slightly after the break. Six minutes in, Ronaldson landed a penalty to make it 20-7 to Mike Ruddock’s men.
Successive yellow cards for Earle and Dolphin winger James Kiernan saw both sides reduced to 14 men. A length of the pitch break from Lansdowne earned them another penalty which Ronaldson dispatched through the uprights.
Referee Barrie O’Connell then sin-binned Lansdowne number 8 Jordi Murphy and his opposite number Miah Cronin for getting involved in an off-the-ball scuffle.
Lansdowne adjusted better to the smaller numbers on the pitch and used their scrummaging strength to build for further tries, the bonus point score being finished off by Cooney.
Ronaldson swept over a fine conversion from wide out, and Murphy, who started for Leinster against Connacht last weekend, powered over for the fifth try in the dying minutes.
Ronaldson added the final conversion to move his tally for the league season onto 93 points, with the result edging Lansdowne back to the top of the table – ahead of Garryowen on scoring difference.
Referee: Barrie O'Connell (IRFU)